Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I had my usual Tuesday dinner with my father. Over the meal he told me a story that blew me away.

Immediately after World War II my grandfather moved my grandmother and their two boys from Philadelphia to Greenville, SC. When they arrived in Greenville, they stayed in a hotel until they could find a permanent place. My grandfather had been an active churchman in his church in Philadelphia. Their second day in Greenville a group of boys from the Christ Church youth group showed up at the hotel and took my father and my uncle around town.

I had never heard this before. I have never heard of any Episcopal related group ever doing such a thing. Certainly, it's never happened to me. But I think, on reflection, that it is no accident that my father is a dedicated and lifelong Episcopalian. If that sort of thing happened back then, then it is no accident that the Episcopal Church at that time enjoyed explosive growth.

Another thing that has happened recently is a dust up in science fiction fandom. I'm old enough to know these things happen from time to time. This most recent one is unusual in that it mostly involves authors as opposed to the more typical fan squabble. If you want the gruesome details just google "sad puppies" and ignore everything from a major media outlet.

My takeaway from the squabble is a point an author made on a podcast. She said, and it is true, that the side in opposition to her side, represents the establishment yet claims to be the scrappy outsiders. They claim to value inclusivity and diversity yet they practice exclusivity and group think.

Does that not sound like the modern Episcopal Church?

It certainly reflects my experience. I have never belonged to a church that I did not receive a cool initial welcome. I have never belonged to a church where I did not have to work at being accepted. I have never been accepted into the inner circle of an Episcopal Church. I have never been made to feel I was other than a conditional member, subject to exclusion and ostracism if I ever strayed from the unstated norms.

I process things very slowly. I have always been the person who thinks of the clever rejoinder two hours after the fact. The more emotionally hurtful, the slower I process it.

The thing that convinced me I really didn't much care for the way things were was back when I belonged to the Cathedral of St Phillip here in Atlanta. The Cathedral was and is a very large church. At the time of this story I had been a member for at least four years. I have never been a pew potato and was quite active at the time. I volunteered. I did jobs no one else would do. I gave money and time. I participated in the singles group as well as the foyers. I was an usher, a reader and an acolyte when there were no youth.

The guest preacher one Sunday was the Right Reverend Reginald Hollis, archbishop of Montreal. I had been his acolyte when he was a parish priest and his wife and my mother were good friends. After the service, I went and sought him out. He recognized me and we caught up on the news. When Dean Sanders, head of the cathedral joined us, I had the privilege of being introduced, for the fourth time, to him. But this time by an archbishop.

How many others were ignored or unnoticed? When was the last time an Episcopal Church actually welcomed anyone? Ignoring the dodgy doctrinal foundations, when was the last time someone was actually welcomed to an Episcopal Church?

My gut says, it's pretty rare.

I'm not saying anyone owes me anything. But if I ever go to an Episcopal Church and get a warm welcome, it will be the first one of my life.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Modern Culture

The economy isn't wonderful and politics are even more bleak than usual, but those are not my subjects today.

Art has never been better. We are living in the era of the greatest outpouring of creativity in the history of the human race. Everywhere the barriers to self expression have been lowered. Thanks to technology you can write a novel and publish it to the world. You can write, produce, and record a song for everyone to hear. You can design and make clothing, sculpture and drawings for little to no cost. Almost no area of the arts is untouched by this. Feel like drawing? If you have a computer and a connection you can download a very powerful free program (the GIMP) and manipulate images to your heart's delight. If you write, there are several text programs to help you.

Millions, possibly hundreds of millions, are doing so. And the potential audience is growing larger every day. You can potentially reach billions. In the old days, you had to get your vision through a battery of gatekeepers. In the visual arts, you had grant committees who heeded certain critics more than anyone else. For music and writing, you had publishing companies who selected works based upon a mixture of whim and marketability.

Those inbred cliques are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. There will always be winners and losers in the arts. A novel by a Stephen King or a James Patterson will always sell better than the latest work of Millicent Shrump or Stan Forbush. But E L James has literally made a fortune off of her fanfic. A book that never would have been published twenty years ago.

Today, record your song and either give it away through YouTube or sell via a plethora of for pay music channels. You can own the tools to do so for less than two hundred dollars. Produce a play and stream it for pay or give it away. Or do both.

Don't like how group X is over represented in comic books or how Group Y is constantly denigrated? Stop moaning and whining and do something about it. There are real live people like you and I who make money off web comics. Some even make enough to support themselves.

Here's the take away point: It will only get better.

Friday, September 06, 2013

He Really Is Bringing Us Together

I know people from all across the political spectrum. And, I must confess, when my progressive friends touted Pres. Obama as being the one who would bring this country together, I was skeptical. I remained skeptical for what I thought were good reasons until very recently. But a spirit of unity is sweeping through the land and I would be foolish not to acknowledge it.

Absolutely no one I know is in favour of intervening in Syria. And I know some genuine troglodytes on the right and rabid progressives on the left. Not one of them is for it.

God bless you President Obama. It took you seven years but you have pulled us all together.

Friday, July 05, 2013

The Third Amendment

A lawsuit has popped up in Nevada regarding homeowners who were ejected from their home during a siege of their neighbour's house by police.

As militarized as the police are getting, I don't think they are soldiers as described by the third amendment to the Constitution.

For reference here is the full text of the relevant article: "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

That's fairly clear and somewhat self-explanatory. Depending upon the facts and circumstances, it's entirely possible that the court may find the police justified in their actions.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Good News For White Democrats

The Supremes just held that section four of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. That doesn't mean that the practise of gerrymandered 'minority/majority' Congressional districts will cease forthwith, but it makes them look  a tad more dubious.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


In 1959 the Episcopal Church had 3,444,265 members and 8,708 clergy. Clergy was .25% of membership.

In 2009 the Episcopal Church had 2,006,343 members and 15,404 clergy. Clergy was .76% of membership. Were the Episcopal church staffed at 1959 levels, the number of clergy would be 5,073.

A causal link between the increase in clergy and the decline in membership is not proven, but it is interesting. In the fifty years since 1959 (the high water mark for membership), membership has declined by 41% and the ranks of the clergy have increased by 77%.

Ignoring theology, the increase in clergy relative to membership has to be putting a strain on finances. It is a truism that a church in financial trouble is less attractive to a prospective new member than a church that is not.

Granted that there has been a boom in part-time and non-stipendiary clergy in the past few decades, how much better would the finances be if two thirds of the currently existing clergy were off the rolls?

Figures from here.

I would like to point out that trimming dioceses and bishops would be an even better bang for the buck than dropping priests. The Episcopal Church has a ludicrous amount of middle management compared to almost every other organization.